Tipu Sultan's birth anniversary will be celebrated in Karnataka for the third year in Karnataka (File)
The Congress government in Karnataka would celebrate the birth anniversary of 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan for the third year on Friday. Tipu Sultan died fighting the British in 1799 - and it was only in 2015 that the state government decided to officially celebrate his death - describing him as one of the earliest freedom fighters. But the decision met with resistance from the right wing which sees him as a bigoted tyrant who forcefully converted thousands and killed thousand others. The first year of the official celebration saw violent protests in which two people died. Last year celebrations were rather peaceful, although protests continued with a lot of security in place.
Tipu Sultan was recently described as a "brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist" by Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde of the BJP, who asked for his name to be dropped from state government invites to this year's Tipu Sultan event.
Though many historians see Tipu Sultan, also known as the "Tiger of Mysore", as the first freedom fighter to take on the British, he is not widely admired in the Kodagu district of Karnataka. He is often accused of persecuting the local Kodava population, as the Roman Catholics of Mangaluru and forcing conversions to Islam.
Despite continued controversy on celebrating Tipu Sultan's birth anniversary, this year, the Congress-led Karnataka government is going ahead with the celebration. The debate was furthered after a speech made in the Karnataka Assembly two weeks ago by President Ramnath Kovind in which he praised Tipu Sultan as a man who died a historical death. The President was speaking at an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the state legislature building, the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. The mention of Tipu Sultan by President Kovind led to charges by the BJP that the Congress had scripted his speech for him - something denied both by the Karnataka state government and by the President's office.
Security has been tightened for the big day. In Kodagu, the district which was historically at odds with Tipu Sultan, prohibitory orders are in place after the district saw the worst of protests in 2015. Like last year, extra security has been brought in from other districts. Official functions on Tipu Sultan would be held at the district headquarters of Madikeri, Somwarpet and Virajpet in the Kodagu district. The District Collector of Kodagu, Richard D'Souza told NDTV that a peace meet had been called in which groups who are against the celebration have assured that they will not create law and order problems.
In Bengaluru, police commissioner T Suneel Kumar said that no processions would be allowed either for or against Tipu Sultan on Friday. "Whatever may be the celebration, we are not going to permit any processions for Tipu Jayanthi. The government itself is conducting the Tipu Jayanthi celebrations and in the various parts of Bangalore city they will be some celebration for which we have made elaborate arrangements," the commissioner said.
According to the Bengaluru police, about 11,000 policemen along with exclusive home guards will be deployed in the city. "We have identified places where Tipu Jayanthi will be celebrated, proper arrangements will be done there and we are keeping watch on anti-social elements who want to create trouble, we will be dealing with them firmly."
Mr Kumar said. He also said that there were no preventive arrests that had been made so far and that Section 144 - prohibitory orders preventing the gathering of people - may be imposed if the situation required it.